Texas school districts can continue requiring staff members and students wear face coverings, the Texas Education Agency said Wednesday afternoon.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that he will lift all coronavirus precaution mandates next week. The TEA said Wednesday that local school boards can maintain current protective measures or vote to rescind virus precautions, including masks.
“Under this updated guidance, a public school system’s current practices on masks may continue unchanged,” the education agency said in a statement. “Local school boards have full authority to determine their local mask policy."
It was not immediately clear Wednesday afternoon how school boards in the area would respond to the education agency’s announcement. In letters to parents and guardians after Abbott’s Tuesday announcement, the Bryan and College Station school districts each said they were seeking to obtain more information and that all current protocols remain in effect.
The Texas Department of State Health Services issued statements Wednesday indicating Texans should continue following virus-related precautions, including mask wearing and distancing. Additionally, DSHS announced Wednesday that teachers, school staff members and child care workers were immediately eligible to be vaccinated.
The TEA’s updated guidance indicates specifies that all school staff members and children 10 or older must wear masks while on school grounds, unless school boards opt out of the requirements.
“Every student, teacher, or staff member shall wear a mask over the nose and mouth when inside a school building, school facility, facility used for school activities, or when in an outdoor space on school property or used for school activities, wherever it is not feasible to maintain six feet of social distancing from another person not in the same household,” the updated guidance reads.
In January, according to a report in The Eagle, Superintendent Mike Martindale said 86.5% of the College Station school district’s 13,820 students were participating in on-campus instruction. In Bryan as of late January, 82% of its 15,858 students were learning in-person.
According to its COVID-19 dashboard, there were 23 Bryan school district students and 12 staff members with positive virus cases as of Wednesday morning; in College Station, the district reported 46 active cases as of Tuesday afternoon.
Approximately 56% of public school students in Texas are attending classes in person, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said earlier this week to state legislators.